Antonio Cruz
Kurago Biotek

Positioning Biotech for Wellness

Wed, 03/06/2019 - 12:49

A growing segment of the population is favoring natural alternatives that promise to increase overall wellness and health over traditional pharmaceuticals, says Antonio Cruz, CEO of Kurago Biotek. “We are developing food fermenting agents for different types of products, such as smoothies, juices or jelly. The idea is to offer natural, regional and seasonal foods that stray from traditional pharmacology.”
Kurago Biotek, a Mexican biotechnology company that strives to improve health and nutrition through functional foods and innovation in the field of beneficial bacteria, has been in the market since 2004. In 2017, COFEPRIS finally recognized the unique niche in which it operates, says Cruz. “The category of functional foods, in which we operate, is not regulated in Mexico as it is in other places like Japan or Europe. However, in 2017, after several attempts, we were able to convince COFEPRIS to open a new category of biotechnological foods that encompasses non-alcoholic ferments. That is where we have accommodated our last four products.”
Although functional foods are still in the process of gaining traction with Mexican consumers, Cruz says that pharmaceutical companies in Europe are taking advantage of the growing number of people who do not like taking antibiotics and look for a preventive way to restore their health to add new categories to their product portfolio. “It is becoming more common for pharmaceuticals to generate new divisions such as medical nutrition,” he says.
The challenge that functional food companies face in Mexico lies in being able to explain in a simple way what it entails. “It is a very complex topic with many layers,” Cruz says. Although the functional foods trend in Mexico remains a small niche, Cruz says that Sanfer has become its largest client. “We expect functional products to become the unit within Sanfer’s structure that starts to gain ground in the health prevention and wellness area.”
While pharmaceutical companies have yet to embrace this trend in Mexico, Cruz says that academia has taken the lead and is constantly developing research in this area. UNAM, Monterrey Institute of Technology, University of Guadalajara, the Metropolitan Autonomous University, the National Polytechnic Institute, the CIATEJ Jalisco and the Research Center for Alimentation and Development (CIAD) are involved in related research and are cooperating with Kurago Biotek.  
Cruz acknowledges that there is still a long way to go for its products to reach mass consumption, but the integration of the wellness concept in stores such as Sanborns and Farmacias San Pablo is helping the company to market its products more effectively. “Farmacias San Pablo is developing a new format for preventive health and wellness in which it will display products that are oriented toward nutrition but that have a technological value. Sanborns is launching a similar project and Farmacias del Ahorro is also in the process of generating a similar scheme.”